Going through a divorce is often a very difficult and challenging process, and for most a season in life that they never want to experience again. A person wrote to us at the CMR recently and asked for some advice on how to regain confidence after dealing with a divorce. (Here was my answer.) Here are some additional tips for those of you who are dealing with the emotional, social and spiritual fallout that come with a divorce.
- Give It Time. Remember the simple truth that time does heal and that the hurt will pass. When a wealthy king asked his wisest advisors to provide him with a saying that he could use when speaking to anyone in any circumstance—positive or negative—he was given this saying: “And this too shall pass.” These were indeed wise advisors, and there is much evidence for the healing effects of time. Those who have gone down this path before you report that they have recovered the hope and joy and confidence they had before, even though it felt impossible early in the process.
Those who have gone down this path before you report that they have recovered the hope and joy and confidence they had before, even though it felt impossible early in the process.
- Build Community. Find a healthy, caring church community to join. It is in such community that we find people who can provide essential social and spiritual support, helping you grow in ways you may not have realized you were lacking. While not everyone in the church is thriving, hopefully, you will find some who will extend genuine care to you, since they too have traveled similar roads. Many churches run divorce recovery groups. By experiencing God’s grace, they often become conduits of His grace, able to extend Christ’s love to others by God’ power and great mercy.
- Practice Gratitude. Look for things to be grateful for. Research shows that practicing gratitude helps reduce anxiety and depression, strengthen the immune system, lower blood pressure, and lead to better sleep. Grateful people are more likely to recover from traumatic events (they are more resilient), are able to strengthen existing relationships, and feel closer and more committed to friends and future romantic partners. Ex-spouses with high levels of gratitude recover better and show more forgiveness after a divorce, helping with their recovery.
- Re-engage with the things you love. When relationships deteriorate it is not uncommon to stop doing the things that used to bring you pleasure. Call to mind the things you once did that made you feel alive or in the flow, things that brought you joy. Perhaps it was simply being in nature—walking, hiking or biking—or serving others through volunteering. Try something that has intrigued or interested you, perhaps taking a class or teaching one. Maybe it is finding a great coffee shop and spending the morning reading a great book or finding a new hobby. Make a list of options and try to do one or two of them this month.
- Cultivate Connections. Seek new ways to connect with trusted others. There are many people near you who have gone through this process and journey, and having such companions can be very valuable. Step out and try to engage, perhaps by finding a divorce recovery group. In some situations you may need formal counseling to rebuild and strengthen emotional health, leading to greater trust in others. This form of counseling is very helpful and has helped many divorcees regain trust and hope, and gain new insights.
- Seek forgiveness and extend forgiveness. Forgiveness takes courageous effort and a lot of moral muscle to let go of grudges. It takes seriously the awfulness of what has happened when you were treated unfairly. It is a giving up control of the angry feelings we carry, acknowledging your emotions to God, but refusing to be controlled by them. It is an act of mercy toward the offender and is essential to recovery.
It is a giving up control of the angry feelings we carry, acknowledging your emotions to God, but refusing to be controlled by them.
- Finally, don't rush into another intimate relationship or second marriage too quickly. Time is your friend, and there is a great benefit to proceeding thoughtfully and carefully before you find yourself in another close relationship. Healing is a process that should not be circumvented, and many divorcees rush back into an intimate relationship too quickly as a way to help with the pain and to feel more connected to others. Remember, God has plans for you, to give you a future and a hope (Jer. 29:11), and this starts by waiting on him and his timing. He promises to never leave us nor forsake us and is a constant help in times of need.